Of course, that sounds all too Lucifer-like. But there are times -- oh, there are times -- when I can see the appeal of such control, and I wonder why it is that I didn't choose that route in the premortal realm. (Clearly, I'm joking...but am still just the tiniest bit serious.)
I'm sobered when I think about how important agency is (enough that God would cast out a third of His children, not allowing them to EVER have the opportunity to have a body and thus progress toward a degree of glory. EVER.). Think about it. That's a HUGE deal.
I have agency on the brain because I recently had a conversation with a friend who is going through a heart-rendingly hard time. A significant person in her life is making a choice that is, imo, a mistake of gargantuan proportions. This choice is breaking her children's hearts. It is breaking my friend's heart. I can't imagine it will do anything good for the individual, either. And it could have consequences that reach into generations.
As much as I am coming to respect the principle of agency, I pretty much wanted to jump through the phone and MAKE things change, so that my friend and her family did not have to experience the pain that is inevitable as a result of this one person's choice.
But I realized I can't. And my friend already gets that.
I think our mortal selves can't fully understand why it is that "agency is a vital element in our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness" (Richard G. Scott). It's especially hard to understand why God allows the exercise of agency that can cause so much intense, significant pain for innocent people. I think it tears at our hearts especially when innocent children are the victims, but at some point, haven't we all experienced pain at someone else's hand (literal or figurative)? We are wired to avoid pain.
And sometimes we do that by wanting to control others.
But this is not God's way.
Opposition is necessary, essential. Without opposition, righteousness or happiness could not exist (see 2 Nephi 2:11). Again, God cared so much about agency that He allowed a third of His children (His children!) to walk away and never return.
I have pondered this principle perhaps more than any other principle the past few years. I still feel like I'm only scratching the surface about why agency matters so much. But here are three thoughts I have about why that is the case:
1. We truly have to choose and experience the difference between sweet and bitter, right and wrong, light and darkness, to fully understand what it means to have faith, to be obedient. You know how it feels when you know something in your head, but it hasn't sunk into your heart? I think the way truth sinks into our hearts is to truly choose to live it, and to do that so repeatedly that it becomes part of who we are.
2. Such exercising of agency is just that -- true spiritual exercise. It's too easy to "be acted upon" (yes, 2 Nephi 2 is a favorite scriptural chapter for me). We get into ruts. We develop bad habits - some of which aren't necessarily sin per se, but are still not truly the best choices that can bring the Spirit into our lives. We need to choose to act. We have to repeatedly, as Elder Hales has said, "reclaim...agency." As we exercise choice with faith, choosing to actively obey rather than just passively live, our faith grows. Our spirits progress.
3. I think sometimes only the pain of others' can help us understand the Atonement in a way that we might not understand otherwise. It's one thing to turn to Him to overcome our own weaknesses (I at least have control over my choices and can choose to try to overcome my weakness with His help). In my view and limited experienced, it's another thing to turn to Him for help and healing when our pain and struggle comes as a result of someone else's choices, over which we don't have control, and are not to exercise control.
Again, from Elder Scott:
Faith in Jesus Christ and in His power to heal provides the abused with the means to overcome the terrible consequences of another’s unrighteous acts.Interestingly, the more we exercise agency in ways that tap into the Savior's power and Atonement, the more influence (not control, but influence) we can have.
From Elder Hales (link above):
Finally, remember our agency is not only for us. We have the responsibility to use it in behalf of others, to lift and strengthen others in their trials and tribulations. Some of our brothers and sisters have lost the full use of their agency through unrighteous choices. Without exposing ourselves to temptation, we can and should invite others to receive the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through friendship and love, we may lead them along the path of obedience and encourage them to use their agency to make the right choices once again.What are your thoughts on agency? How do you turn to the Lord when someone makes a choice that hurts you? How do you exercise your agency? How do you embrace and accept it as a principle and as a principle in your life?